Another Champions League season has come and gone but we certainly won’t be forgetting it in a hurry.
Real Madrid’s ruthlessness, Villarreal’s fairytale story, Manchester City’s desire to find new ways to blow their chances of European glory – yep, there were plenty of storylines to enjoy.
But now we’re here to talk about the best players who made this season happen, brought to you by 90min‘s ‘Football Tackles’ charity of the week: KLABU.
KLABU believe that young people in refugee camps have hopes and dreams beyond just survival. And this is where KLABU sees an opportunity to add value to a refugee’s life, using the power of sport to (re)ignite the spirit of refugees.
How they do that is though building sports clubs in refugee camps to help refugees rebuild their lives. KLABU make way for moments of play to take the stage, allowing refugees to break down barriers, build confidence and create friendships – through the power of sport, together on the field.
10. Pau Torres
There’s no doubt Pau Torres will feel vindicated for his decision to spurn moves abroad last summer in order to compete in the Champions League for his hometown club.
Villarreal had plenty of stars rise to the occasion on their memorable run to the semi-finals, but it was one of their own who shone brightest.
9. Robert Lewandowski
Bayern Munich endured an underwhelming Champions League campaign, and yet Robert Lewandowski was still one of the stars of the season.
With a silly record of 13 goals in 10 games, Lewa’s highlight was his 11-minute hat-trick against Red Bull Salzburg in the last 16, ensuring Bayern’s passage to the quarter-finals. Just don’t ask what happened next.
8. Darwin Nunez
Darwin Nunez failed to live up to the hype during his first season at Benfica following his move from Almeria in 2020, but he sure as hell smashed his lofty expectations this season.
The Uruguayan led Benfica from the front, making their way through a group containing Bayern and Barcelona before knocking heavy favourites Ajax out in the last 16.
They came unstuck against eventual finalists Liverpool, but Nunez left a lasting impression on Jurgen Klopp and co.
7. Kevin De Bruyne
Man City’s hops of conquering Europe spectacularly went up in flames once more, but that wasn’t Kevin De Bruyne’s fault (quite literally as he had already been substituted before their semi-final collapse against Real Madrid).
De Bruyne popped up at crucial times with goals against Atletico and Real, reaffirming his place as one of the world’s leading midfielders.
6. Sebastien Haller
It’d be hard to believe that even Sebastien Haller would have had himself down to finish the season as one of the Champions League’s ten best players of the campaign back in the summer of 2021, but here we are.
11 goals in eight games shows the Ivorian unquestionably has what it takes to play thee highest level and is worthy of his place on this list.
5. Mohamed Salah
The season may have ended in tears for Mohamed Salah but he still accomplished plenty in Europe this season.
Liverpool leant on their Egyptian king on their run to Paris, with Salah chiming in with eight goals – including a memorable brace away at Atletico and a winner at Inter.
4. Luka Modric
Real Madrid’s 2021/22 campaign embodied the need for teams to pick and choose their battles. Luka Modric was the embodiment of the embodiment (stay with us).
At the age of 36, Modric is hardly going to dominate every single game for 90 minutes, but even in a role not based on scoring goals, he found ways to step up when the team needed him most.
His outstanding outside-of-the-boot ball to Rodrygo in their quarter-final victory against Chelsea was undoubtedly the assist of the season.
3. Vinicius Junior
It’s easy to forget Vinicius Junior is only 21 years old since it feels like he’s been at Real Madrid for about 21 years.
After a stuttering start to life in Europe, this was the Brazilian’s breakout season, emerging as one of Los Blancos’ key men and ultimately scoring the goal to win them their 14th European Cup.
2. Thibaut Courtois
While Vinicius was busy putting the ball in at one end of the Stade de France, Thibaut Courtois almost singlehandedly kept it out of the other.
The Belgian’s heroics in Paris alone would have been enough to warrant a place on this list, but time after time he kept Real Madrid afloat when they were trailing in the knockout stages (which was quite often).
1. Karim Benzema
But the 2021/22 Champions League season belonged to Karim Benzema.
The veteran striker realised his destiny as the Real Madrid star, as the galactico, as the best player in the world.
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